The first one now, will be later be last? Photo:Getty
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Forget Labour and the SNP - it's Cameron's coalition that is unpopular

The arguments about popular support are a smokescreen. It's Cameron's bloc, backed by Ukip and the DUP, that is the most unpopular.

If David Cameron ends up as Prime Minister after the General Election it will likely be at the helm of one of the most unpopular governments ever. A recent YouGov poll  shows that David Cameron’s most likely route to power is also the route most hated by the public. Two thirds of voters are opposed to a Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Ukip and DUP grouping, which looks like the only road David Cameron has left to achieving a majority in the House of Commons.

As the election results come in early on Friday morning, Tory and Labour strategists won’t just be tallying up their own seats. There will also be boards in their offices for potential partners, where they will be pinning up the constituencies controlled by parties that might be persuaded to vote through their Queen’s speech.

The polls have been deadlocked for months. No matter what they call it – a coalition, confidence and supply or informal deal – any potential Prime Minister will need the votes of other parties to pass a Queen’s speech, even if they then go on to govern with a minority in the House of Commons. And it looks like the only way David Cameron can come close to getting a majority of the House will be if together the Tories, Lib Dems, Ukip and DUP can get the 323 seats they need to pass a Queen’s speech.

But to make Cameron’s unlikely cabal come together, not only will the parties all have to outperform current predictions (YouGov’s prediction today puts them at a combined 320 seats, three short of a working majority) but they will have to go directly against the grain of public opinion. Of all of the different groupings polled by YouGov, the grouping most likely to keep David Cameron in Downing Street is the least popular, with an approval rating of minus 49.

To put this into perspective, this potential governing group has less support than Jim Callaghan’s government did in December 1976, when he was forced to deliver a Greek-style package of public spending cuts in return for an International Monetary Fund bailout. It is also considerably more unpopular than a Labour and SNP grouping, which comes in with a net approval rating of minus 37.

This public verdict is a disaster for David Cameron, who has been leading a Conservative Party offensive on what a ‘coalition of chaos’ involving Labour and the SNP might mean for Britain. The reality is that the British public are more worried about what Cameron’s cabal could do to the country.

It will not be long after the polls close on Thursday evening before rhetoric from party spokespeople changes from “still hoping for a majority” to “getting the best deal for the British public”. And let’s be honest, today’s polls show that no deal will be popular. But one thing is for sure – a Cameron-led cabal of Tories, Ukip, Lib Dems, and the DUP won’t just have a tough time agreeing amongst themselves, they will face a far tougher time from the British public. Bringing such a grouping together will be the very last thing the public wants.

 

Cameron Tait is Senior Researcher at the Fabian Society. He tweets at @cameronrjtait.

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An unmatched font of knowledge

Edinburgh’s global reputation as a knowledge economy is rooted in the performance and international outlook of its four universities.

As sociologist-turned US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recognised when asked how to create a world-class city, a strong academic offering is pivotal to any forward-looking, ambitious city. “Build a university,” he said, “and wait 200 years.” He recognised the long-term return such an investment can deliver; how a renowned academic institution can help attract the world. However, in today’s increasingly globalised higher education sector, world-class universities no longer rely on the world coming to come to them – their outlook is increasingly international.

Boasting four world-class universities, Edinburgh not only attracts and retains students from around the world, but also increasingly exports its own distinctively Scottish brand of academic excellence. In fact, 53.9% of the city’s working age population is educated to degree level.

In the most recent QS World University Rankings, the University of Edinburgh was named as the 21st best university in the world, reflecting its reputation for research and teaching. It’s a fact reflected in the latest UK Research Exercise Framework (REF), conducted in 2014, which judged 96% of its academic departments to be producing world-leading research.

Innovation engine

Measured across the UK, annual Gross Value Added (GVA) by University of Edinburgh start-ups contributes more than £164m to the UK economy. In fact, of 262 companies to emerge from the university since the 1960s, 81% remain active today, employing more than 2,700 staff globally. That performance places the University of Edinburgh ahead of institutions such as MIT in terms of the number of start-ups it generates; an innovation hothouse that underlines why one in four graduates remain in Edinburgh and why blue chip brands such as Amazon, IBM and Microsoft all have R&D facilities in the city.

One such spin out making its mark is PureLiFi, founded by Professor Harald Haas to commercialise his groundbreaking research on data transmission using the visible light spectrum. With data transfer speeds 10,000 times faster than radio waves, LiFi not only enables bandwidths of 1 Gigabit/sec but is also far more secure.

Edinburgh’s universities play a pivotal role in the local economy. Through its core operations, knowledge transfer activities and world-class research the University generated £4.9bn in GVA and 44,500 jobs globally, when accounting for international alumni.

With £1.4bn earmarked for estate development over the next 10 years, the University of Edinburgh remains the city’s largest property developer. Its extensive programme of investment includes the soon-to-open Higgs Centre for Innovation. A partnership with the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, the new centre will open next year and will supply business incubation support for potential big data and space technology applications, enabling start-ups to realise the commercial potential of applied research in subjects such as particle physics.

It’s a story of innovation that is mirrored across Edinburgh’s academic landscape. Each university has carved its own areas of academic excellence and research expertise, such as the University of Edinburgh’s renowned School of Informatics, ranked among the world’s elite institutions for Computer Science. 

The future of energy

Research conducted into the economic impact of Heriot-Watt University demonstrated that it generates £278m in annual GVA for the Scottish economy and directly supports more than 6,000 jobs.

Set in 380-acres of picturesque parkland, Heriot-Watt University incorporates the Edinburgh Research Park, the first science park of its kind in the UK and now home to more than 40 companies.

Consistently ranked in the top 25% of UK universities, Heriot-Watt University enjoys an increasingly international reputation underpinned by a strong track record in research. 82% of the institution’s research is considered world-class (REF) – a fact reflected in a record breaking year for the university, attracting £40.6m in research funding in 2015. With an expanding campus in Dubai and last year’s opening of a £35m campus in Malaysia, Heriot-Watt is now among the UK’s top five universities in terms of international presence and numbers of international students.

"In 2015, Heriot-Watt University was ranked 34th overall in the QS ‘Top 50 under 50’ world rankings." 

Its established strengths in industry-related research will be further boosted with the imminent opening of the £20m Lyell Centre. It will become the Scottish headquarters of the British Geological Survey, and research will focus on global issues such as energy supply, environmental impact and climate change. As well as providing laboratory facilities, the new centre will feature a 50,000 litre climate change research aquarium, the UK Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas, and the Shell Centre for Exploration Geoscience.

International appeal

An increasingly global outlook, supported by a bold international strategy, is helping to drive Edinburgh Napier University’s growth. The university now has more than 4,500 students studying its overseas programmes, through partnerships with institutions in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Sri Lanka and India.

Edinburgh Napier has been present in Hong Kong for more than 20 years and its impact grows year-on-year. Already the UK’s largest higher education provider in the territory, more than 1,500 students graduated in 2015 alone.

In terms of world-leading research, Edinburgh Napier continues to make its mark, with the REF judging 54% of its research to be either world-class or internationally excellent in 2014. The assessment singled out particular strengths in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, where it was rated the top UK modern university for research impact. Taking into account research, knowledge exchange, as well as student and staff spending, Edinburgh Napier University generates in excess of £201.9m GVA and supports 2,897 jobs in the city economy.

On the south-east side of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University is Scotland’s first university to have an on-campus Business Gateway, highlighting the emphasis placed on business creation and innovation.

QMU moved up 49 places overall in the 2014 REF, taking it to 80th place in The Times’ rankings for research excellence in the UK. The Framework scored 58% of Queen Margaret’s research as either world-leading or internationally excellent, especially in relation to Speech and Language Sciences, where the University is ranked 2nd in the UK.

In terms of its international appeal, one in five of Queen Margaret’s students now comes from outside the EU, and it is also expanding its overseas programme offer, which already sees courses delivered in Greece, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

With 820 years of collective academic excellence to export to the world, Edinburgh enjoys a truly privileged position in the evolving story of academic globalisation and the commercialisation of world-class research and innovation. If he were still around today, Senator Moynihan would no doubt agree – a world-class city indeed.

For further information www.investinedinburgh.com